Smallpox vaccination policy: CDC sets meeting schedule, seeks electronic input

May 31, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – In their initiative to take the public's pulse on smallpox immunization policy, federal health officials have announced the schedule for five upcoming public forums and have set up a Web page to gather comments on policy options.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced yesterday it will hold forums June 6 in New York and San Francisco, June 8 in St. Louis, and June 11 in San Antonio. In addition, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) will hold a forum June 15 in Washington, DC. The CDC also presented a page on its Web site to take comments.

The meetings and Web page are part of a current review of federal recommendations on smallpox immunization. The Smallpox Working Group—a joint committee of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee—plans to provide updated recommendations to the CDC by June 20. The ACIP will meet in Atlanta June 19 and 20 to work on the recommendations and will also allow for about 4 hours of public comments at that time, the CDC said.

The CDC currently recommends that, in the absence of any smallpox cases, immunization should be provided only to laboratory workers who handle viruses related to smallpox. CDC officials said the policy review deals mainly with three questions:

  • Whether any members of the public should be vaccinated before any smallpox cases occur
  • Whether any occupational groups other than laboratory workers who deal with viruses related to smallpox should be immunized before any outbreak occurs
  • Whether to change the current policy for dealing with outbreaks, called "surveillance and containment" or "ring vaccination"

The four CDC-hosted meetings will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time. The meeting details are as follows:

  • New York City: Thursday, June 6, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Stern Auditorium, One Gustave L. Levy Place
  • San Francisco: Thursday, June 6, San Francisco Marriott Downtown, 55 Fourth St.
  • St. Louis: Saturday, June 8, Renaissance Airport Hotel, 9801 Natural Bridge Rd.
  • San Antonio: Tuesday, June 11, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, 200 E Market St.

The IOM announced yesterday that its June 15 forum will focus on the scientific basis for smallpox vaccination policy options. "The goal of the forum is to obtain input from scientists, policymakers, clinicians, emergency responders, the public, and others on the options being considered by the federal government for smallpox immunization," the announcement said.

The meeting will take place at the National Academy of Sciences Auditorium, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC. The forum will be broadcast live on the Internet (www.nationalacademies.org), and there will be an opportunity to submit questions and comments. People interested in attending the forum in person can register online (see link below) or by contacting Ms. Judy Estep (phone, 202-334-2013; fax 202-334-2939) and providing names and contact information.

The CDC Web page, provided by the National Immunization Program, invites responses to each of the three policy questions mentioned above. The agency presents three or four policy options for each question, but respondents are invited to suggest other options and to add comments of up to 1,000 words for each question. People who comment will remain anonymous, the CDC says. The agency invites people to comment directly via the Internet, but an address for sending comments by regular mail is also offered.

Those who comment are asked to list their sex and age-group and whether they are in any of five occupational groups that could be involved in dealing with a smallpox outbreak.

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